I'm counting the days till I step back onto the ice.
Below is a photograph I took whilst in Explorers Cove, New Harbor, three years ago. It highlights a small iceberg that's been trapped on this coastline for nine, ten, eleven years. In past times, icebergs such as this one would have run aground for the winter season then been released back into open waters when the spring thaw came. These cycles are no longer predictable, however - this iceberg may in fact never leave its accidental berth; its sentry-like presence has all the elements of silent protest, one of many wordless testaments to our environmental crisis.
After a helicopter flight back to our field camp yesterday, Sam wrote to say that the sea ice is looking treacherous - choppier and more chaotic than it's been in ages. Traversing the ice will be tricky on skidoos and it's likely we'll have to make the many treks out to dive sites on foot. This will add an extra level of challenge to our season's work, but he sounds undeterred, is typically calm and resolute.
At this point, five of our group are already down there - 'there' being McMurdo Station - doing various refresher courses in ice safety, etc... before heading out to New Harbor. (I will be doing the same when I arrive there this weekend.) They're also crating up our food & water supplies, bedding, lab equipment, vehicles, etc... for the coming weeks.
Four of us from the 2005 season are back - Sam, Steve, Henry and me - and this year, we'll also be enjoying the company and skills of Molly, Sally, Shawn and Cecil... So, four women and four men - quite different to my first camp experience (one woman amongst five exemplary men!). 4 + 4 augers well for a dynamic six weeks.
Meantime, my piles of 'stuff' are all laid out and ready to pack - amongst the woolen gloves and Icebreaker long-johns are a flotilla of paper boats, a batch of 'bibulous' lab notebooks, watercolour pencils & crayons, ink and brushes... a camera, field recorder and an indecent number of cables, plugs and chargers. A week or so ago, Sam and I packed up Katherine's and Christina's magnificent porcelain pieces (K's 'bell' vessels and C's sculptural Euclidian forms), so they are already down there, waiting patiently to begin their collaborative dance. I can't wait.
'Tis late now - more tomorrow or the next day...